In Tulsa County on any given day, over 700 infants and toddlers age 0-3 wake up each morning in the legal care of the Department of Human Services. These children have been placed in foster care because they have experienced some type of abuse and/or neglect in their family of origin. Early childhood is a critically important time for a growing baby. The experiences that infants and toddlers have in the first few years of life determine the strength of their foundation for all growth, development, and learning to come. These Tulsa County children are at significant risk for disrupted development and attachment. Safety, well-being, and permanency must be achieved as soon as possible to protect them from a host of negative outcomes, and to give them the best chance to become strong, healthy children, successful adults, productive citizens, and loving parents themselves one day.
The Tulsa County ZERO TO THREE Safe Babies Court Team (SBCT) is a systems change initiative that brings together the courts, child welfare and child serving organizations to serve vulnerable children ages 0-3. The goal of the Court Team is to ensure that Tulsa’s infants and toddlers are monitored closely while under the court’s jurisdiction, receive the services they need, and achieve positive safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes. The SBCT model partners the Judicial Leadership of the Hon. Judge Doris Fransein and the child development expertise of Sarah Beilke, LCSW, the Court Team Coordinator, to lead a multi-disciplinary team of child welfare and health professionals, child advocates and community leaders who advocate for and provide services to abused and neglected infants and toddlers and their families. Key components of the model include monthly court hearings and case reviews, provision of child-focused services, infant mental health interventions, and use of evidence-based parenting education/interventions. ZERO TO THREE (ZTT)—the project developer— provides training, technical assistance and resource materials to support implementation of the Court Team model.
Safe Babies Court Team is having a significant impact on the way that stakeholders collaborate to strive for optimal outcomes for families, the way that parents engage in helping their children heal, and the speed at which cases move toward permanency. At a time when the field of child welfare is in great duress, Safe Babies Court Team is offering a ray of hope and light in the lives of these Tulsa County children and their families.